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Fat Tuesday Warm Up: Beignets

February 14, 2010 Leave a comment

To celebrate Valentine’s Day and the upcoming Fat Tuesday celebration, my loving husband made beignets for breakfast today. If you have never had a beignet before you are really missing out on a cultural opportunity. They are like the chic, uptown cousin of the county fair queen funnel cake. Imagine square pillows of airy, puffy, layered dough topped with feather-light satiny sugar dusted from above. It is like the angels themselves are rubbing their wings together and down falls the powdered sugar. Truly a taste of heaven, and yes, they are THAT good. Cafe du Monde  in New Orleans gained notoriety thought their beignets and café au lait. They may offer other things on their menu, but I would never know it, since that is all I have ever consumed, or inhaled to be more accurate.

Dave in action...yes we did put tin foil on the rest of the stove to prevent the oil from getting everywhere - works great.

I will be honest, they do take a bit of work to make. In fact, you need to make the dough the night before. But it will be worth it, trust me. For the recipe below, Dave normally makes the entire recipe of dough but only uses half of it and freezes the other half. The dough freezes pretty darn well and makes a super easy breakfast, especially for those mornings when you feel the effects of a rough night on Bourbon Street.

Beignets
Makes about 4-5 dozen beignets

1 1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup undiluted canned evaporated milk
7 cups flour
1/4 vegetable shortening
oil for deep-frying
confectioner’s sugar

Put the warm water in a large bowl, add the dry yeast and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Add the sugar, salt, eggs and evaporated milk. Slowly stir in 4 cups of flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and well combined. Beat in the shortening then add the remaining flour, about 1/3 cup at a time. Stir until it becomes too stiff to do so and then work the dough with your fingers. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On a clean, floured surface roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into rectangles measuring 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or large pot  to 360 degrees.

Fry 3 or 4 beignets at a time until they are puffed and golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, turn them over once or twice so that they are evenly browned. Drain each batch on a wire cooling rack. Place them on a platter covered with paper towels and put the platter in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining beignets.

Using a flour sifter or fine mesh colander, cover the beignets with plenty powdered sugar and serve hot with coffee.

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Dig this Great Recipe: Celery Root Soup

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Usually when writing a post, I try to find the most flowery, sometimes verbose language to describe the food experience on hand.  But after trying a new recipe, the words I found coming out of my mouth were, “Holy crap, this is GOOD.” 

The ingredient list for Celery Root Soup is short, vegan, and dare I say, tastier that you can imagine.  I had reservations making a “cashew cream” in lieu of cream or other dairy option.  But let me say, you could not tell the difference between the two.  So if you are looking for a healthy and tasty soup – this has it all.   Even though we had it for a meal, it would make a fancy-ass first course for a dinner party.  It is satisfying and hearty, but yet delicate.  The granny smith apples and chive oil really make it come together and can make anyone realize that eating vegan is not void of taste.

This soup celebrates the colder weather season and leaves you with two feelings:  1.)  Yummy happy belly   2.) A sense of kind cooking for your body, animals and the environment.  I root for all those things in meal.

Rollin’ in the Pizza Dough

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A mound of tomato cheesy goodness!

How do you like your ‘za?  Thin Crust or Deep Dish?  There are definitely two camps when it comes to pizza.  Being from Chicago, the division is especially severe… much like being a Cubs or White Sox fan.  You can’t be both (at least in Chicago).  And much like your baseball team choice, the passion is much the same when it comes to pizza.   Really there are no wrong decisions (except for the recent verdict to have Andre “Awesome” Dawson’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame sporting an Expo cap instead of a Cubs cap) when it comes to making your own pizza.  But what you need is a good base to support all those wonderful ingredients. 

The pizza line-up

Putting all differences aside, here’s a double recipe today – a recipe for deep dish and one for thin crust.   Both are from the Frugal (Got Caught Looking) Gourmet.

Deep Dish Pizza
Makes 2 9-10″ pizzas

2 packages quick rise dry yeast (2 tsp)
2 cups tepid water
1/2 cup canola oil
4 Tbs olive  oil
1/2 cup cornmeal
5 1/2 cups flour

A Kitchenaid mixer is best for this.  In the bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.  Add the oils, cornmeal, and 3 cups of the flour.  Beat for 10 minutes with the mixer with the dough hook.  Gradually add in the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour.  Knead for several minutes with the machine.  Pour out the dough on the countertop and cover with a larger bowl.  Allow to rise until double in bulk (30 min-1 hour usually). Punch down and allow to rise again.  Punch down a second time and divide evenly into two mounds of dough.  Oil round cake pans (I like to use springform pans like you would use for cheesecake).  Put one half of the dough in one pan and spread out evenly using your fingers, pushing the dough up the sides of the pan.  Repeat with second pan/dough.   

Filling for each pan (note this is per pan, so if making two pizzas double the ingredients below)
1/3 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
2 cups canned tomatoes (drained and squished) – you can also use diced tomatoes, be sure to drain)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste

Place the cheese in tile like layers on the bottom of the pie.  Next put in the tomatoes, spices, garlic and salt.  Add your favorite toppings and if you like more cheese, add some grated parmesan on top.  Bake at 475 degrees for 35-40 minutes. 

Thin Crust Pizza
Makes dough for 3 14-inch pizzas

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups tepid water (about 110 degrees)
1 pkg fast-rising dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb and 2 oz wheat flour (about 31/4 cups) measure on a good scale
1/4 cup cornmeal

Directions:
Place the tepid water in a mixing bowl. dissolve the yeast and salt in the water. Add the oil. 1 1/2 cups of the weighed out flour, and the cornmeal. Beat together for 5 to 10 minutes to form a sticky batter. Knead in the remaining flour until you have a smooth dough. Place on a clean counter and cover with the bowl. Allow to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and divide into 3 equal parts.

To make a pizza, roll a portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 14-inch diameter. Place the rolled dough on a lightly oiled Pizza Pan.  Add your favorite pizza sauce (I just use regular tomato sauce and sprinkle Penzeys pizza seasoning on top) and toppings and bake at 450 for about 10-15 minutes.


*If you haven’t figured it out already, I am a big baseball fan that can’t wait for spring training to start (Go Cubs!).  In this post (recipes excluded) I have mentioned an amount of baseball terms…come up with the correct number and you will be featured in an upcoming blog post!   Just post your guess in the comments section and you may be a weiner…I mean a winner!